CLUBHOUSE: Review: Augur Magazine #5.1

Almost every story and poem guaranteed to move you. No wonder, considering how much intelligence and imagination has gone into the material. Splendid issue.

OBIR: Occasional Biased and Ignorant Reviews reflecting this reader’s opinion.

AUGUR MAGAZINE – Vol. 5, Issue #1

Publisher: Kerry C. Byrne, Augur Magazine Literary Society, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Co-Editors in Chief: Lawrence Stewen & Terese Mason Pierre. Co-Managing Editors: Victoria Liao & Avi Silver. Creative Director: Amy Shuang Wang. Poetry Editors: Leslie Joy Ahenda & Escher McDonall. Editor: Vivian Li. Assistant Editors: Sean Dowie, Ren Iwamoto.

Cover Art: Mochili.mocha

Interior Artists and Illustrators: Lisa Vanin, Sarah Crowley, Alecia Doyley & Blackapinaa.

EDITORIAL:

Joyful Imaginations  – by Terese Mason Pierre and Lawrence Stewen

Review:

 Lawrence  Stewen reveals he is stepping down as editor to pursue his writing goals. As a publisher/editor/reviewer desperately trying to find time to work on my novel, I can empathise. Best of luck to Lawrence.

FICTION:

Bird Astrologer – (poem) by Victoria Mbabazi

Premise:

 What sort of omens do you pay attention to?

 Review:

 And why?  Read this to find out the proper way to interpret things. Important to know.

 Brief Chance of Moonlight – by Akem

Premise:

The Moon Princess is being a bit naughty. She’s run away from home to visit the Earth for the first time.

Review:

Akem impresses with her confident and charming interpretation of a famous myth. Not only is her version described in such vivid detail as to seem very real, her take on the awakening of a sheltered girl’s world view is convincing and inspiring. The reader has no doubts as to the validity of the girl’s character in spite of the mythic nature of the story. A pleasure to read.

The Wild Way – (poem) by Lauren O’Donovan

Premise:

Natural beach artifacts reflect the meaning of the ocean.

Review:

I’ll just comment that what you pick up on the beach tends to reinforce what the ocean is trying to tell you. Don’t throw the shell fragments in a drawer. Place them on your household altar.

Currant Voices in a Convection Oven – by Sarah Ramdwar

Premise:

Molly has made it to the fourth round in a cooking contest.

Review:

 A surreal vision of what is mainstay on TV today, but of greater significance in the future after the oceans have risen. For one thing, a cook like Molly understands the true nature of food much better than we do in our time. The result is both repellant and comforting. A neat trick for the author to accomplish. Imaginative.

don’t die—we have to go to the mitski pop up shop this weekend!

– (poem) by Victoria Mbabazi & Blake Levario

Premise: 

 An immigrant busker striving to fit in.

Review:

Not easy, but potentially worthwhile. Polite, yet grim, a poem that captures the struggle.

The Seven Ochre Sisters – by Meg Frances

Premise:

 There is a reason why the most powerful influencers in the world seem both more and less than human.

Review:

 At first glance a satire on  the Kardashians, siblings who are famous for being famous (much like Zsa Zsa Gabor used to be back in the day), but in fact a satire on the followers of all such influencers. It is suggested that extreme fannish obsession is potentially a game-changer beyond mere narcissism. I see hints of a modern and sinister take on Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End. Clever. Gives us something else to worry about.

Changeling – by Evalyn Broderick

Premise:

Of course every qualified person is allowed into the bomb shelter, but there’s a limit on what they can bring with them.

Review:

 The war has been going on for quite some time, so being asked to retreat into the shelter is no surprise. But there striction to sentient beings only is intolerable, at least as far as the protagonist is concerned. He needs his support plant. It needs him. His neighbours find this relationship unhealthy and creepy. If they only knew. An optimistic story centred on fear and paranoia, but really about love and loyalty. I like it.

To move with a sea of names – (poem) by Jamie Evan Kitts

Premise:

Preparing for first day of school.

Review:

 All about colour and identity. General mood of optimism.

Bolt – (poem) by Kate Hargreaves

Premise:

Gardening akin to dealing with life’s perils.

Review:

 Not unlike the labours of Hercules, now that I think about it.

The Trouble with Time Machines– by Karen Jessica New

Premise:

Turns out grammar is the secret behind time travel, which explains why time travel is so ubiquitous and common.

Review:

 According to Karen, who is present in the story as author, grammar was first invented billions of years ago and constitutes the very basis of reality past, present, and future. This is explained in an intelligent and amusing way, ever so matter-of-factly, such that the premise comes across as entirely plausible. Really just a matter of illustrating the obvious in straightforward terms. It would be churlish and pedantic to object. I have always found the rules of grammar hard to grasp, which is my trouble with time machines, but Karen has put her finger on the trouble with time machines. A simple yet brilliant conclusion on her part. I think Einstein, were he still alive, would agree. Remarkable story. Puts the reader much closer to understanding reality. Positively a public service, methinks. Intriguing and useful.

A Thread of Gold – by Nayani Jensen

Premise:

What price a thief who comes in the night to steal, not dreams, but secrets?

Review:

 Speaking of dreams, this story reminds me of a dream or desire almost as old as science fiction itself, a universal ability to read thoughts. How honest and communicative this would make humanity. Utter nonsense of course. Don’t forget the “Monsters from the Id.”

To know is to regret. The only “proof” of genuine mind-reading perhaps lies in the number of people who kill themselves for reasons unknown to their friends and relatives. Perhaps they had inadvertently stumbled across the secret of mind reading and couldn’t handle it.

Possibly there’s a parallel with people suffering from eidetic memory. A single observation often triggers multiple memories which in turn trigger an exploding cascade of myriad memories and trains of thought that overwhelm the senses. This explains why many with “photographic” memory skills shun both experience and people as much as possible in order to remain sane.

Or consider habitual liars. Eventually they get tangled up in their own lies because it invariably proves impossible to keep them straight and consistent.

Which is another way of saying this is a thought-provoking story. What happens when you know more than you should know?  What level of guilt can you endure? Fortunately for the reader, Nayani keeps the implications relatively simple by concentrating on the emotional consequences of learning other people’s totality of secrets. At it’s core, this is a gentle story about love and betrayal, i.e. concepts and emotions everyone except sociopaths can identify with. In sum, quite accessible and very interesting. Should be added to the canon of classic fairy tales.

Still, We Wait – by Nico VC

Premise:

The seeker returns to the observer at the shore of a long-vanished ocean. What does come after the end of all things?

Review:

 Those who witness the end of civilization as they know it tend to record their thoughts on the meaning of it all. St. Augustine, for instance. Boethius. Rutilius Claudius Namatianus (remember him?), and many more across multiple eras and cultures. It is to be expected the last two humans, or rather the near-immortal beings descended from humanity, will muse over the fate of their race, the universe, and everything. Not with any sense of panic or surprise, of course, as they have been witnessing the heat death of existence for eons.

But what these beings have in common with those who came before them is a sense of longing for what once was. (Even St. Augustine who, though happy to see the pagan world destroyed, nevertheless experienced a twinge of regret over the fate of what he once enjoyed in his youth.) The super-evolved beings in this story are still human enough to indulge in rationalization and wishful thinking, human enough to enable us to identify with them, to imagine ourselves standing on the shore of the evaporated oceans at the end of time.

If you were ever moved by that brief scene in H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine when the Traveller witnessed a leaden, black sea under our sun swollen into a red giant, you will find this story especially poignant. It stirs a melancholy sense of wonder. It feels like fantasy but is really hardcore science fiction. Something to contemplate.

Surfacing – (prose poem) by Kelly Rose Pflug-Back

Premise:

Young and out of control and dealing with death.

Review:

 There are many ways to grow up, some of them quite painful,  but most produce a few good memories worth hanging onto. An evocative look at one such young life, by no means necessarily doomed. Powerful imagery.

The Mage’s Box – by Eve Morton

Premise:

A young witch confronts pain and love. Fortunately she keeps them separate.

Review:

 Young witches share many things in common with ordinary girls, too many things perhaps. Fortunately there are remedies. Trouble is you can’t always count on them. But then nothing in this world is guaranteed, nor in the spiritual world either. One line in particular, about her mother, captures the futility of regret to perfection. This story is worth reading for that one line alone. But also for the story as a whole, for it speaks to every woman neglected and/or abused as a child. Children often survive to grow into capable adults. Children are tougher than we think. This story illustrates this well.

Levitation – (poem) by Abu Bakr Sadiq

Premise:

Seeking to elevate oneself above mourning and regret.

Review:

 Bliss and sorrow. Opposites? Partners? Conjoined solutions? There is an answer.

At night I rest my limbs in water and search for my mother’s father’s mother’s mother’s tongue – by Rachel Lachmansingh

Premise:

Make of your ancestors what you will, or what they will?

Review:

 In style this story reminds me of the writings of Gertrude Stein, whose technique, I’m given to understand, often relied more on sound and rhythm rather than meaning. This is a lengthy  paragraph composed of a single sentence almost entirely devoid of punctuation. It rushes along like a racing river; one feels the need to shout it aloud as fast as possible.

Come to think of it, I am also reminded of Allan Ginsburg’s recital style. I once attended a reading he gave in Vancouver back in the 1980s, and his breathless, torrential outpouring was memorable in the extreme. This feels like something he would’ve enjoyed reciting, something suitable to his technique.

To sum up, once you catch your breath, interesting speculation for you to ponder on the subject of communing with your ancestors.

Love Heart Soup – by Wen-yi Lee

Premise:

What use is soup made with a mother’s love when her sons lie slain by invaders?

Review:

 In this story the mother’s love is literally one of the ingredients of the soup she has kept simmering on the stove for more than a decade. Astonishing how different it tastes each and every day. The neighbours have come to depend on it as a sort of oracle. But the mother knows its true purpose.

A metaphorical essay on the complexity of love in the face of loss. There are lessons here. It may possibly be of comfort to those who grieve. Certainly insightful.

What Looks Like Joy Is A Zombie Eating Life Out Of Ruins – (poem) by Nwuguru Chidiebere Sullivan

Premise:

Contemplating the price of being African.

Review:

 A complex, surreal poem exploring the living legacy of the Atlantic slave trade. As you might expect, powerful and personal.

Regeneration – (poem) by Leanne Dunic

Premise:

The powers of primitive lifeforms.

Review:

 Are we capable of imitating them?

Nun History, Nun Name – by Emma Tennier-Stuart

Premise:

What does a ghost-Nun think of a Pride exhibit in her former convent?

Review:

 There is a tendency in some circles to assume women who join an order with a vow of celibacy shun sex with men because they prefer women. The view of the Catholic church is more complicated than that. It is my understanding that Gays of either gender are welcome providing they habitually practice celibacy regarding their preferences. Such an individual becomes simply another sinner resisting temptation, acceptable so long as they never give in. However, unlike most Catholic sinners, I suspect saying “Hail Mary” would not suffice as sufficient atonement should they prove to be practicing homosexuals. I assume they, and also Nuns caught having sex, would probably be expelled from the Church, but I confess I don’t actually know. I represent the ignorance of an individual outside the faith and its accompanying dogma.

No matter. It is a matter of historical record that occasionally Nuns have cohabited with Priests. Proof, if any is needed, that not all Nuns were lesbians. Besides, many wealthy families were keen on their daughters becoming Nuns, just as many in Roman times were keen on their daughters becoming Vestal Virgins, and for the same reasons. Nuns and Vestal Virgins were universally respected, relatively well-fed, comparatively stress-free, and immune to the perils of child birth. They tended to live much longer lives than most married women. This is why I believe the majority of Nuns were and are quite content to give up sex. It’s a good trade-off.

Be that as it may, this story explores the “controversy” in a timely and contemporary manner and remains of interest even to those readers who don’t care one way or another. I would add that it is a mistake to underestimate religious faith as many progressives are wont to do. Lust doesn’t always trump moral values. There are many individuals fully capable of ignoring the sexual rat race in order to contemplate the divine and who find strength and calm comfort in so doing. It is possible to lead a tranquil, contemplative life. Rare, and damn near impossible for most people, but not entirely out of reach if one is sincere.

To sum up, I guess what I am saying is that this story inspires musing over the meaning and value of life. Not necessarily a bad thing, methinks.

The Mall at Night – (poem) by Millie Ho

Premise:

Youthful vampires just want to have a good time.

Review:

 A metaphor for adolescents reluctant to embrace maturity? Possibly. As someone racing through my second childhood I can identify.

Famous Bear Encore: Dance-Off Edition! – by Cavar

Premise:

Beware the dancing bears.

Review:

 Never realised how important sidewalk chalk is to the bears. Good thing they never forget.

Mango Maker – by Cleopatra Petersen

Premise:

The Mango is the key to lost history.

Review:

 Don’t try this at home. Not a good idea. But for purposes of fiction,  a means of communing with ancestors.

Every Night is a Good Night – (poem) by Manahil Bandukwala

Premise:

Sharing the night and sleep with all living things.

Review:

 Sleep offers more than we dare imagine.

CONCLUSION:

 This issue offers many takes on loss and longing, mostly through the genre of fantasy. A lot of sophisticated concepts involved. Definitely required reading for them as likes to think. But at the same time many triggers for emotions. Hard to read through the issue and remain cold and neutral. Almost every story and poem guaranteed to move you. No wonder, considering how much intelligence and imagination has gone into the material. Splendid issue.

Check it out at:  < Augur Magazine 5.1  >

 

 

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